Saturday, April 17, 2010


TRANSFORMATION.... From an Abandoned lot to an Elegant Garden!

There are many reasons a home and garden can become abandoned, and what was once a loved garden can become obscured by rampant ivy, years of leaves and whatever opportunistic weeds survive. It is often a surprise when old flagstone and bricks, marble or other "treasures" are found among the debris, and we realize that once somebody cultivated a much beloved garden before neglect took over.

Th rehabilitation of these types of abandoned gardens (and homes) requires homeowners with the creativity to envision the rebirth of the interior and exterior spaces, and the patience and persistence to see the project through to its completion.

From the onset this project was intriguing. I walk through a house calling for a full rehab to a back porch propped up by a few 2x4s brought me into a garden covered with ivy, old tree stumps, and bits of old concrete, flagstone and bricks littered around. The homeowners presented me with a conceptual plan for the space and over the next year this plan morphed and adapted to what became the final result.

BEFORE: A view from the Garage

BEFORE: A View from the Back Porch

Our first step was to remove all the ivy, tree stumps, and debris and collect and save all the old flagstones, marble and brick to be reused in the new patio and walkways. We also installed a gravel pit drain in the far left corner as the gutters from the house had no outlet into the back alley and were draining into the yard close to the house. We then mulched the yard heavily with straw which suppressed the growth of ivy and other undesirable weeds as well as protected the soil from the construction process that the house was to undergo and increase the soil structure as in decomposed over the next year.

During the winter we pruned the crape myrtle whose branches were tangled in the overhead wires, and after the series of large snow storms of February, we were ready in March to begin the installation of the "new/old hardscape" and several weeks later the planting and mulching. At this point all rehabilitation of the house had taken place and the garden was all potential waiting for manifestation.

The patio is 50% old flagstone from the original garden and 50% newly quarried local quartzite flagstone from Vinci's Stone in Marriotsville, MD. The patio is dry-laid and the joints are filled with "gator dust" which, because it has a cement component, hardens and eliminates stone dust from constantly finding its way into the home and gardens. Local flagstone has a high mica content which glitters in the sunlight.

The walkways and Grill Patio is 100% recovered pavers from the original garden set in a herringbone pattern with polymeric sand in the joints, which again because of its cement content hardens. For these older homes, using recovered pavers is outstanding due to the natural aging that occurs that cannot be duplicated by new pavers.

A sitting wall borders the oval patio on one side giving vertical interest and a convenient place to sit and place potted plants on. The sitting wall is made from recovered Baltimore veneer brick and PA Bluestone whose edges get thermalled with an extremely high heat to remove saw marks. Since this sitting wall follows the curve of the oval patio, each capstone was cut to reflect the curve.

The brick grill patio and oval flagstone patio met in an interesting geometry which is especially eye catching from the viewpoint of the back porch.

Back towards the garage we planted an Okame Cherry which exploded in blossoms the following day! A Trellis which will have annual flowering vines frames the garage door and provides a division of spaces.

Finally all perennials were planted and mulched!

Although the transformation of this first year is startling, the true beauty of the space will develop over the next years as the perennials settle in, take root in their new home and grow and expand!

Once again a Beloved Cared for Garden!